There is something about the Scottish clouds that makes you forget about the possibility of an oncoming Vitamin D deficiency. Hanging low over the horizon, they droop over Edinburgh’s architectural splendor with a sort of regal presence. Anywhere else in the world, I might get SAD but in Scotland it’s different. The clouds and the rain belong here just as much as all the Scottish castles, munros, and lochs.
If the weather isn’t sunny, at least the people in Scotland are some of the most welcoming human beings. I suppose with so much rain, there is no point in being an asshole to one another. Coming to Scotland from Greece, I realized that the two countries may as well be antonyms in the English dictionary. The more obvious difference is the weather. The less obvious difference is the level of acceptance in each culture.
Unlike in Scotland, my friend received countless rude stares from people in Greece. Devon is gender non-binary. They like to dress in black and have more piercings than most people I know. So what? Devon is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and completely undeserving of all the snobby looks from the older generation.
For all the little shit sold to tourists in Greece, like orgy scene lighters and penis bottle openers, you’d think most people would be just a tad more open-minded. For a place regarded as the birthplace of democracy, you’d think people would be just a little (or a lot) more liberal. For all the gender fluid mythological entities that the ancient Greeks celebrated, you’d think something would remain of that culture. You have these thoughts until you realize that with every bypassing ambulance, all the people on the bus are crossing themselves in synchrony… You finally realize that the imposition of religion has ruined it all a long time ago.
I want to underline that not everyone we encountered in Greece was an unaccepting jerk but that there were far too many people who were. We encountered nothing of the sort in Scotland. In fact, Scotland embraces the LGBT community and in many ways, embraces all people. There was a really significant difference in what my fellow Polish immigrants had to say in Edinburgh and in London. The immigrants I spoke to in London wanted out. “It’s a shit show,” they said. “Life is happening too fast,” they said. “We work too hard,” they said. The immigrants I spoke to in Edinburgh were genuinely happy, unbothered, and full of positive vibes. They’ve been to London too and they don’t want to go back. If someone asked me where it is I would like to move in Europe in the next 24 hours, I would say Scotland without missing a beat.
Aside from how awesome the people are and the gorgeous historical sites I’ve visited like the Edinburgh Castle, the Holyrood Palace, Stirling Castle, and the Lithingow Palace, Scotland is a place where you can literally feel free. I thought I felt free in Greece… Climbing up to the monastery in Hydra and swimming naked in the waters of Agistri. I was wrong.
After I climbed up to King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, which is freaking fantastic by the way, I decided I wouldn’t feel complete without at least attempting to climb a munro. It’s basically a mountain above 3,000 feet. The weather was shitty but I wanted to do it. I got myself waterproof gear the night before and went out on the adventure to climb Ben Vorlich from Ardlui. Located in the Southern Highlands near Loch Lomond, it took me about 3 hours to get there. I went from Edinburgh to Glasgow and then Ardlui. No one got out with me. No one was around when I got to clearing.
It was very cloudy and rain was soaking through my “waterproof” shoes and clothes. I was soaked. I couldn’t find the path for awhile, once I did, I only made it halfway up before my phone started fogging up. The wind was treacherous, blowing from every direction, and I decided to climb down. I wouldn’t be able to make it if my phone died on me. I needed it for directions but the rain was relentless and would not stop. Regardless of whether I made it up or not, I’m very proud of myself. It’s not everyday that you are put in a man vs. wild situation. I think that’s when you truly feel the meaning of freedom. With no one around, with every possibility of making one wrong move and slipping down so far, you are free from everything aside from the landscape. I didn’t make it up as much as I wanted to do it, but I’m so glad I went.
Before going to bed last night, I kept hearing the serene sound of all the mountain streams and I kept seeing how sublime everything looked from up above. I will never forget it.
Scotland… I love you and we will meet again.